Generally speaking, there are two phases to most cases: 1) the settlement phase, and 2) the litigation phase.
The litigation phase of a case can be divided into three distinct stages: 1) the complaint and answer stage, 2) the discovery stage, and 3) the trial stage.
This is the second of a series of articles that pertains to the stages of litigation in Nevada district courts cases. This article will focus on the discovery stage.
"Discovery" is the broad term used to characterize the various tools a lawyer can employ to gain information that may be valuable to the prosecution or the defense of a case.
In most cases, the parties must meet for the purpose of an early case conference within a certain period of time after an answer is filed. The parties must exchange, at this conference, lists of potential witnesses and lists of documents with copies of those documents. Often, a trial or arbitration date is established at the early case conference. Injured litigants should note that a hearing date is important to the progress of a case. Defense lawyers often wait until a case is close to arbitration or trial to make meaningful settlement offers.
After an early case conference other types of discovery are possible. These include:
- Depositions, at which witnesses are sworn and their testimony is recorded.
- Interrogatories, or written questions to the other side.
- Requests for production of documents to a party.
- Requests for party admissions.
- Requests to inspect or to test.
- Records subpeonas, to obtain records from nonparties.
Although most lawyers do not copy their clients with all of the discovery obtained in course of a case, clients should feel free to sit down and discuss the progress of discovery with their counsel. Cases are often won or lost in the discovery stage.